James Jackson, Who Changed the Study of Black America, Dies at 76Breaking News
tags: African American history, social science, Black Studies
James S. Jackson, who changed the way scholars examined Black life in the United States, leading to new insights on health, social support systems and more when he founded the Program for Research on Black Americans at the University of Michigan in 1976, died on Sept. 1 at his home in Ann Arbor, Mich. He was 76.
His wife, Toni C. Antonucci, said the cause was pancreatic cancer.
Dr. Jackson, a social psychologist, shook up the research field with the program’s first major project, the National Survey of Black Americans, a sweeping study completed in 1980 that was unlike anything done previously. When he began his career in the early 1970s, research surveys of the national population had an inherent flaw: They included too few Black people to provide insights specific to the Black population.
“In most research before the N.S.B.A. you could only study Black people by comparing them to white people,” Robert J. Taylor, the current director of the program, said by email. “Black scholars thought that a sole reliance on this type of comparative research limited what you could understand about Black people and treated whites as the gold standard.”
Dr. Jackson had a particular interest in mental health. But the research he conducted and oversaw crossed disciplinary lines, encompassing sociology, psychology, political science and public health. The National Survey of Black Americans asked a nationwide statistical sampling of Black adults scores of questions on a wide range of topics, providing a trove of data others drew on for years.
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